Deep within the heart of the Gathorn Mountains, in the northern lands of the Icelands Coast, can be found a strange insect. Called the Fisah-eck-Shanno by the Remusians, which means "Snowflake", it causes terror in the hearts of those who are unlucky enough to come across it. Beautiful, yet repulsive at the same time, it may be the last thing one ever sees before a painful death.
Appearance. This insect is about two nailsbreadth across. By far, the majority of this measurement is taken up by its legs, as the body is often not much bigger than the head of a nail. In adulthood, it appears like a cross between a white fluffy spider and, when aloft, a large snowflake; hence its name. Two small pink to red eyes can be seen on its bulbous body, if one looks closely enough. This body is round and furry, and has six to eight legs protruding from it, apparently in every direction. It is unknown as to why individual insects have a different number of legs. It has been suggested that Snowflakes may occasionally lose a leg or two in the froth, the hard shelled protective ball that the larval insects mature. Other scholars surmise that maybe it is because some of the maggots complete their metamorphosis at different times, and that insects with eight legs simply changed earlier than those with six. On the Snowflake’s underside a hollow proboscis juts out; it is white, with a grayish black hard chitinous point, and is used for injecting into a host.
In the larvae stage, the Snowflake has a milky grey body, and resembles a maggot of a few grains in length. Tiny black feet can be seen, which it uses to move itself along. A large sucker-like mouth is at the one end, and if one looks close enough, a row of tiny sharp teeth can be observed.
Special Abilities. In winter, when these creatures mature, they can fill their bodies up with air, like a balloon, and can be carried on the wind, searching for their prey, and a place to lay their eggs. If there is no wind, the snowflakes will simply crawl along the ground on their own legs. They can cover a distance of a ped in roughly 15-20 blinks, thus moving on the wind is usually much faster for them, and as such, makes them deadlier.
They are also quite resistant to the cold, and can survive the coldest of northern winters. It is true that fewer froths, the hardened shell that acts as a cocoon while the lavae transform to their adult form, are disturbed in winter, but it does happen. Scholars are unsure why they remain active in winter, and some have surmised that it is because of the antifreezing effects of the hrugchuk grass, that is eaten by many of the victims of the Fisah-eck-Shanno.
Territory. These creatures can be found in the Gathorn Mountains, and as far south as the Heaths of Wilderon, the large area that is home to the Rhom-oc orcs and effectively seperates the Kanapan Peninsula from the Icelands Coast and Iol Peninsula in the north. There have been reports of them outside of this area, but these reports are rare, and largely unconfirmed. It is thought that the Snowflake's short lifespan, at most only a few days after emerging from the froth in adult form, prevents much migration of the species.
Habitat/Behaviour. Larval snowflakes gather in what’s called a froth. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these small maggot-like insects gather in a ball, each producing a sticky substance that bubbles and covers the entire froth. This sickly light brown secretion then hardens, forming a protective shell around the maggots. This hardened shell protects the maggots until conditions are right for it to transform. Some think that this condition is based on weather, for spring is when most of these froths awaken. Still others surmise that it is the proximity of a host, as froths can break open at any time of the year.
Regardless of what brings on the awakening, the hard shell of the froth cracks, then the mature snowflakes emerge; hundreds of them. It is at this point that they become deadly. These adult snowflake crawl, or roll, along on their new long legs. As they do, their bodies swell, filling with air. If there is a breeze, many of them will be lifted into the air, where they float seemingly weightless in the winds. It is this sight that got them their name.
Any animal or, gods forbid, man that finds themselves in the path of these creatures is in dire straits at best. The Snowflakes legs are quite adept at grabbing onto hair, thread, fur, etc. Once attached to a host, the snowflake injects eggs into the skin. It takes only a moment of time for this to happen, as it seems the snowflake is released from the froth already carrying viable eggs. Many eggs can be injected into the skin from the snowflake at once, though they are too small to be seen clearly enough to know how many.
It takes only a few minutes before the area around the eggs becomes inflamed. Within an hour, the eggs begin to hatch into maggots of less than a grain in length. These maggots are voracious eaters and begin to burrow into the flesh deeper. Within a day, the host is usually dead. A couple days after that, a man sized host will be devoured completely, with nothing left but the bones.
The maggots will then travel together, looking for a suitable place to hide, usually under logs, boulders, hollows of trees, even in the crook of tree branches. They will begin then to gather in a tight ball, once more secreting the sticky fluid and forming a froth.
Diet. Larval snowflakes feed on nearly anything, from the flesh of their host, to vegetable matter and carrion. They are voracious eaters, eating several times their own weight in a relatively short amount of time.
As adults, it does not appear that they eat. If these creatures do not find a host in which to lay their eggs, they appear to die within a day or two. It is this fact alone that keeps the snowflake population from growing completely out of control. If they do find a host, it seems that the energy expended in laying the eggs leaves the Fisah-eck-Shanno nearly dead. Within a few hours at most, the creature will die.
Mating. There does not seem to be any mating ritual between individual snowflakes. In fact, there do not seem to be any sexes at all, within the snowflake species. All snowflakes seem capable of laying eggs, which do not need fertilization. The snowflakes emerge from the froth able to lay eggs immediately. Also, the maggots can lay eggs once they are implanted in a host. Within a day, as they devour the flesh, more maggots will be born.
Usages. There is no known use for adult Snowflakes. However, a few of the more adventurous northern people have found use for the froth. In particular, some froths seemed to be infected with what has become known as "Froth Blight", where the froth turns a black-blue colour and secretes a milky brown liquid. This froth blight kills the froth, rendering it harmless. It is unknown how this blight is spread from one froth to another, or how the froth contracts it. The thick liquid that oozes from it can then be used as an unguent. If applied to the skin, it acts as a repellent. It is said that the Snowflakes will not land on a person who is suitably swathed in the liquid. Of course, this is so far unconfirmed, as direct evidence of this working has yet to be substantiated. It seems that there is a drought of willing participants when it comes to testing this salve.
Myth/Lore. The mythical hero Uraghadze is a favourite subject of Ice Tribe mythology. There is a story related of how Uraghadze had an encounter with a snowflake froth. As with most Uraghadze myths, it does not seem to be a morality tale, nor an allagorical one. Instead, it simply illustrates the Ice Tribes’ belief that the strength of man can overcome the forces of nature. Many times this includes the help of one or more of the gods, and sometimes it is in spite of these deity's intervention. The tale of Uraghadze has been told for generations, and seems to be of Remusian origin, even though the hero himself seems to be of indeterminate origin.
The Trial of Uraghadze. In the before time, when gods walked the world with men, the hero Uraghadze Hanno-eck-Icsain, Uraghadze Ice-Hand, had many adventures. Now it happened that one spring, after a very long and cold winter, his clan was short on meat. Uraghadze decided to go off in search of game. He travelled to the Gathorn Mountains, where prey was more plentiful. Once there, it did not take long before he came across the track of a Tar’andus deer. Gripping his spear tighter in anticipation of a fruitful hunt, Uraghadze set off after the animal.